Iran’s Supreme Leader Denounced on Wednesday U.S. “Nuclear Threats” Against the Islamic Republic, and its Elite Military Force Said it Would Stage War Games in a Waterway Crucial For Global Oil Supplies.


Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei looks through field glasses as he visits the country's first domestically-made destroyer, Jamaran, which was launched in undisclosed waters in the Persian Gulf, in south Iran, February 19, 2010. REUTERS/Khamenei.ir/Handout
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei looks through field glasses as he visits the country’s first domestically-made destroyer, Jamaran, which was launched in undisclosed waters in the Persian Gulf, in south Iran,
February 19, 2010.
Credit: Reuters/Khamenei.ir/Handout
TEHRAN (Reuters)
The Revolutionary Guards’ exercises in the Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz this week take place at a time of rising tension between Iran and the West, which fears Tehran’s nuclear program is aimed at developing bombs. Iran denies the charge.
Iran has also reacted angrily to what is sees as President Barack Obama’s threat to attack it with nuclear arms.
Obama made clear this month that Iran and North Korea were excluded from new limits on the use of U.S. atomic weapons — something Tehran interpreted as a threat from a long-standing adversary.
“The international community should not let Obama get away with nuclear threats,” Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Wednesday.
“We will not allow America to renew its hellish dominance over Iran by using such threats,” he told a gathering of Iranian nurses, the semi-official Fars News Agency reported. Iran was a close U.S. ally before its 1979 Islamic revolution.
Brigadier General Hossein Salami, also quoted by Fars, said three days of maneuvers would start on Thursday and would show the Guards’ naval strength.
“Maintaining security in the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz, as the world’s key economic and energy routes, is the main goal of the war games,” he said. “This war game is not a threat for any friendly countries.”
Naval, air and ground forces from the Guards would take part, Fars said. The Islamic Republic’s armed forces often hold drills in an apparent bid to show their readiness to deter any military action by Israel or the United States, its arch foes.
“PEACE AND FRIENDSHIP”
Nicole Stracke, a researcher at the Gulf Research Center in Dubai, said that with the “current threat to Iran increasing” the Guards were showing their capability and strength.
“The Revolutionary Guard is sending a message that we are ready and able to counter the threat,” Stracke said in an e-mail to Reuters. But she added the force regularly held such drills and they were unlikely to increase regional tension.
Washington is pushing for a fourth round of U.N. sanctions on Tehran over its refusal to halt sensitive nuclear activities as demanded by the U.N. Security Council, including moves against members of the Guards.

Israel, widely believed to have the Middle East’s only atomic arsenal, has described Iran’s nuclear program as a threat to its existence. Although it says it wants a diplomatic solution, Washington has also not ruled out military action.

Iran, a predominantly Shi’ite Muslim state, has said it would respond to any attack by targeting U.S. interests in the region and Israel, as well as closing the Strait of Hormuz. About 40 percent of the world’s traded oil leaves the Gulf region through the strategic narrows.

Salami made no reference to this in his comments, stressing Iran’s “efficient and constructive role” for Gulf security.

“Peace and friendship, security, tranquility and mutual trust are the messages of this war game for neighboring countries in the Persian Gulf region,” the general added.

Sunni-led Arab countries in the Gulf are concerned about spreading Iranian influence in the region and also share Western fears about Tehran’s nuclear ambitions.

Cliff Kupchan, a director of Euroasia Group, said in a note on Wednesday that he still believed that Israel was unlikely to strike Iran, but “the risk will grow as prospects for successful sanctions diminish.” China and Russia, veto-wielding Security Council members, are reluctant to back tough sanctions on Iran.

Moderate Muslim and Arab countries face great challenges as major players in the Middle East peace process who work to prevent the next war in the region – which could break out as soon as this summer, King Abdullah of Jordan told the Chicago Tribune editorial board in an interview conducted Thursday.
“There are countries in the Middle East that do not believe in the Arab peace proposal,” he said, explaining that 57 Arab and Muslim states had “basically all agreed that they want to have full diplomatic relations with Israel, but [want] in return a two-state solution, therefore a future for the Palestinians.”
Abdullah stated that at the last two Arab League summits, there were countries that spoke out against dialogue with Israel and suggested tabling the Arab peace initiative. “We managed to get an extension of the Arab peace proposal, which terminates in July,” Abdullah continued. “There will be a committee meeting of Arab countries in July, and for us as moderate countries, we’re going to be challenged by everybody else: ‘Nothing has happened; Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is not interested in peace, so why keep the Arab peace proposal on the table?’” By July, he said, something would have to change.
“What we’re hoping for is active engagement by the Palestinians with the Americans, the Israelis with the Americans,” he said. Through American mediation, he added, benchmarks for negotiations could be decided upon by July.
Concerning reports that US President Barack Obama had his own peace plan in the works, Abdullah said that it was up to the Israelis and the Palestinians to do more of the groundwork. “If we stay at the status quo, others in the region are not sitting idly by. So the chance of conflict is always very high. War would be disastrous for the Israelis, for the Arabs, for all of us,” he said.
Abdullah warned that despite the good intentions of many, there was a “very good chance” that war could break out in the region in the coming months. “If we hit the summer and there’s no active process, there’s a very good chance for conflict – and nobody wins when it comes to that,” he said.
Asked about the direction in which Netanyahu is taking Israel, Abdullah replied that he’d become “extremely frustrated” with the current government’s stance. “I believe Israel’s future is to be integrated into the region. But if the powers that be look at Israel’s future as Fortress Israel, that means bloodshed will continue for decades,” he warned, referring to a state in which Israel chooses to be isolated and cut off from the rest of the region.
“In the Arab-Islamic peace proposal, it’s not just opening trade offices, it’s full diplomatic relations,” Abdullah explained. “They’re looking at Israel being integrated into the region, not just having embassies so that it looks good for the cameras, but having relations with the Arab and Islamic world. Fifty-seven nations is a third of the United Nations; that’s a third of the United Nations that does not recognize Israel today,” he said.
“Indirectly, what the Arabs are saying is, we will be the ones to ensure the security and the survival of Israel,” he continued. “You don’t need to have those walls, you don’t need to be Fortress Israel because you’re one of us now.”
Turning to the issue of Iran’s controversial nuclear program, Abdullah said that he, like other leaders in the region, would like “to see the whole region free of nuclear weapons.” He said that the need for such weapons stemmed from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. “If you solve the Israeli-Palestinian problem, nobody needs a nuclear weapon,” he said. “If you solve the Israeli-Palestinian problem, why would a country such as Iran want to go to the extent of a nuclear military program when the mantra there is defending the rights of the Palestinians and Jerusalem?”
The Jordanian leader warned, however, that a nuclear Iran could set off an atomic rat race in the region. “As volatile as our region is, the last thing you want is a whole bunch of countries in my part of the world developing nuclear weapons,” he said. He stressed that a preemptive strike would not stop Teheran. “If Iran is hit, Iran will retaliate and create what I consider Pandora’s box,” he cautioned. “Conflicts would ignite throughout our region. A military strike would be disastrous for all of us.” 
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